Bardian insights

by Judith Curry

Shakespeare’s writings are infused with with weather references, and even some that are arguably relevant to climate change.  The insights, however, come from the academic debate surrounding the actual authorship of the Shakespearean opus.

Shakespeare’s best lines on weather and climate change


Thanks to Marianne Mitchell, an outstanding example is found in the tragedy of “King Lear.” A severe storm is the setting of dramatic discourse, Act III Scene II.

(Enter Lear and Fool)

Lear: Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou all-shaking thunder
Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!

Rumble thy bellyful! Split, fire! spout, rain.
Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters

(Enter Kent): Since I was man,
Such sheets of fire, such bursts of horrid thunder,
Such groans of roaring wind and rain, I never
Remember to have heard; man’s nature cannot carry
The affliction nor the fear —

This is nature at its most fierce, used as metaphor for similarly stormy human relationships. Because weather so influences human affairs, it becomes a perfect foil for authors who write of human affairs.

JC comment:  hurricanoes !!! what a fabulous word

From the

openDemocracy asked Mark Rylance, actor and (now) former artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe, to identify passages from Shakespeare’s work that might be relevant to climate change. The passages that Rylance chose included King Lear Act 1, Scene 2:103,

‘These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us. Though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects.’

Rylance also chose a quote from All’s Well that Ends Well Act 2, Scene 1:142

‘Great Floods have flown from simple sources’

and a quote from The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 3, Scene 1:155

‘And with thy daring folly burn the world.’

JC comment:  wow, that would make a perfect alarmist slogan.

And finally, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

… the spring, the summer,
The chilling autumn, angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries; and the mazed world
By their increase, now knows not which is which.                                                                                                                                                   .                                                                                    
The authorship controversy


The motivation for this post comes from a post at entitled “Reflections on the authorship controversy” (h/t Vaughan Pratt).  The controversy is between the Shakespeareans (consensus) and the Oxfordians (skeptics/contrarians).  The article is written by Irvin Leigh Matus.  Matus (recently deceased) was a freelance (non academic) Shakespearean scholar.

There are some very interesting analogies to the climate debate, and some good insights. Some excerpts from Matus’ essay:

As I write, I have recently passed the fifteenth anniversary of the dank, chill day in February 1989, when I received a letter from the Shakespeare Authorship Roundtable, a Los Angeles area group made up of partisans of various Shakespeares (even the one from Stratford), inviting me to speak to its members. When I told readers at the Folger Shakespeare Library about this, many gently advised me, don’t do it! This was the opinion of a dozen scholars (“You will become the new Satan of the Oxfordians,” prophesied one) before I got to the first supportive one, who is not a Shakespearean. I took the advice of the latter; first, because it agreed with the advice I had been giving myself; second, because I always trust a man with a nicely twirled moustache.

JC comment:  in the climate debate,  the Shakespeare Authorship RoundTable might be analogous to the Heartland Conference, with Matus playing the role of Scott Denning.

The reaction of Folger scholars reflects a reason I was invited to speak to the Roundtablers. Academic Shakespeareans have dismissed the authorship controversy or shunned it completely; so of course they would not agree to speak on the subject, and especially not before a group of contras, a breed that has a reputation for being smart-alecky, rude, insulting. I am, however, an independent scholar with neither a peer reputation to defend nor a career to protect. They guessed right when they thought I might be willing to give a talk. But I have a hunch that when I was asked specifically to investigate controversialist scholarship itself, the Oxfordian brand in particular, they were also guessing that, like many of them, I would find it persuasive, convincing and authentic – that I would agree “the man from Stratford” cannot possibly have been the author. There they guessed wrong.

In the two months I spent among the members of the Roundtable, I was never made to feel in the least Satanic. Quite the contrary. Rather than smart-alecky, rude and insulting fanatics, I found myself in the company of warm and gracious people; our conversations were relaxed and cordial without a hint of rancor. This set the tone of my experience of the controversialists in the years since, with few exceptions. There are, as there are bound to be in any group, some lacking in etiquette; a few who are casebook examples of Churchill’s definition of the fanatic: “one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” They can be especially vexing in the age of the Internet, making madding use of its weapon of mass distraction, email. But for the rest, we at worst most agreeably disagreed.

JC comment:  analogies are Scott Denning’s experience at the Heartland Conference and Jean Goodwin’s experience at Climateaudit.

What seems to confound many is that I am not persuaded by the scholarship that persuaded them the author cannot be “the Stratford man.” One such is a man who had energetically propounded the Oxfordian cause in a newspaper article. I had a conversation with him some months ago and toward the end he urged me several times to “keep an open mind.” I didn’t feel there was any point in suggesting that he might make an effort to do the same. There are no more passionate believers than those who have “seen the light” (and are perhaps blinded by it).

JC comment:  a reminder to skeptics to be skeptical of your skepticism

My experiences with adherents to the cause of Oxford and other rival Shakespeares leave no doubt that they are intelligent people who are unquestionably honest and sincere. I realize that few have access to the resources necessary to do their own research, nor time enough to make good use of them if they did. They must then rely on the facts as they are presented to them in controversialist books and articles, which give every appearance of being well researched, fully and accurately documented scholarship. 

Oxfordian scholars have shown a keen eye for finding flaws in Shakespeare scholarship. They scrutinize every document, every allusion, to see if each says precisely what orthodox interpreters say it says. But I know of only relatively few instances of similar skepticism and scrutiny being applied by controversialists to their own scholarship.  Scholarship of a kind that is dismissed as conjectural when it is offered by a Shakespearean becomes “circumstantial evidence” when put into the service of the Earl of Oxford.

JC comment:  the issue here is which side bears the burden of proof in this controversy, which is not a straighforward call in these debates.

In the same vein, the use of cautionary words and terms by Shakespeare’s scholars – such as, “perhaps” … “this suggests” … “it might be” – is portrayed by the Oxfordian scholar as a sign of inference and surmise, of conjecture and speculation. It may be true at times, but most of the time it is being frank with readers, telling them that the data tells us this much and no more, takes us this far and no farther. But from the Oxfordian point of view the standard for Shakespeare evidence is unequivocal “documentary proof” – nothing less will do.

JC comment:  the demand for documentary proof by contrarians on a complex topic and/or one with substantial unknowns can work in a pernicious direction:  motivating academic consensus and statements of high certainty when they are not justified.

On the other hand, in making the case for Oxford, cautions are thrown to the winds. In uncovering shortcomings and errors in orthodox scholarship they perform a valuable service. They are often on target in saying that the assumption of the author’s identity is a source for error. But setting the record straight is not their goal. It is, rather, finding flaws that may be used as a loom for reinterpreting, even reinventing, a given source or a specific topic, in order to weave another tale in the “greatest detective story there ever was.”  Thus may the demand for absolute proof from Shakespeareans disguise the fact that Oxfordians do not offer factual evidence to the contrary; and thus may the assumptions of Shakespeareans be transmuted to serve the certainties of Oxfordians. For it should not go unmentioned that they also analyze data based on their assumption of who the author is.

JC comment:  the Oxfordians seem analogous to the climate auditors.

Reading such scholarship makes me think of what an Oxfordian with a political bent wrote in a letter to me, “it doesn’t matter how right you are if you still lose the debate.” Said another in his preface to a scholarly paper, it is not his responsibility to prove his scholarship right, but that of critics to prove it wrong. More than once I have been told that errors of fact in one or another Oxfordian argument do not “invalidate” its conclusion. It is, to put it politely, remarkable that those who hold Shakespeare’s scholars to an absolute standard, apply a somewhat less rigid standard to themselves.

“Well,” a Shakespearean well might ask, “if their scholarship is so poor, why pay attention to it?” For one thing, it is important to remember that they do reveal sometimes significant problems with and errors in orthodox scholarship. In fact, orthodox scholarship may unwittingly be a source of Oxfordian data, or provide affirmation of it. 

JC comment: This is a very important point

For another thing, a curious reader may be forgiven for wondering how bad Oxfordian scholarship can be. They are, after all, willing to do something Shakespeareans are loath to do: put their scholarship into the public arena.This openness not only advances their cause but, perhaps more importantly, also offers the public a chance to join in the discussion of a figure that has a distinct, personal place in their lives, while Shakespeareans shun them.

JC comments:  the analogue here is the technical climate blogosphere

Many reasons have been given for the Shakespeareans’ refusal to engage in the discussion. What may be the most forthright is the one stated by Alfred Harbage in an article in Shakespeare Quarterly:

Picture us sheepishly dispersing if the wrong side won, filled with delicacies which should rightfully have been consumed on some other date!

In other words – what if they’re right! Or might it be, worse still: what if we’re wrong? I’ll propose something worse yet: what if they are wrong but a majority of the public is persuaded they are right? As one Shakespearean wrote to me, “most folks at the Folger [Shakespeare Library] admit, we’ve lost the public battle.” This remark jogged my memory, bringing to mind an essay by Richmond Crinkley, a former Director of Programs at the Folger (1969-73), upon the publication of The Mysterious William Shakespeare, which appeared in Shakespeare Quarterly (Winter 1985). Although a “contented agnostic Shakespearean” himself, Crinkley was indignant at the library’s refusal to allow Ogburn to do research there and helped secure his admission as a reader.

JC comment:  this is why the defense of “consensus” is so ineffective with contrarians, and the kind of behavior that the climategate emails revealed.

His comment appropriate to the public battle is, “Orthodoxy has suffered … from its denunciatory response to anti-Stratfordianism…. it has missed the opportunity to fight for its position in the public media.” It is missing in action still, with only a handful of Shakespeareans actively involved in the controversy; only a few are from academe. Let’s be frank, “we” have barely joined in the battle. Most appear to be quite content with losing it.

JC comment:  this jives very much with Randy Olson’s complaints about the climate science community.

There is another reason it is important. In the words of Henry V in his play, “There is some soul of goodness in things evil, / Would men observingly distill it out.” The goodness in controversialist literature is that it demands evidence be reassessed. Returning once more to the Chamber Account, we discover the doubts of orthodox scholars about its reliability are traceable to volume two of E. K. Chambers’ The Elizabethan Stage (page 194) – which was published in 1923. How many more times would his assumptions have been passed from scholar to scholar had not a controversialist forced attention to it? Of how many more documents might the same be said?

JC comment:  this describes the appeal  and importance of Steve McIntyre’s work.

In broader terms, the controversy offers opportunities to cast a fresh eye on things grown too familiar, things so basic that when we come upon them in reading the critical faculty is suspended. It also requires us to view a thing as seen through different eyes, from a different point of view, a different perspective. At times it may reanimate something once read in passing, sometimes something small but worthwhile, other times something larger and valuable, but that will in either case be a contribution to Shakespearean studies and scholarship. And then there are other times when it sets one off on an entire course of study, as it has me on many occasions.

JC comment:  a good description of the mission of Climate Etc.

No matter how imaginative a Shakespeare biographer may be, it takes a heap of imagination to imagine a Shakespeare. However, the failure of modern biographies is not due to a lack of imagination merely. It lies in what Brian Vickers termed the “self-contained enclave” of “specialists in Shakespearian and Elizabethan drama,” whose studies are “cut off even from broader studies of Renaissance literature and history.” Taking this a step further in biography, Shakespeare is cut off not only from Elizabethan drama but from contemporary dramatists and from the broader world of the theater as well. His is a life devoid of a context.

JC comment:  The “self contained enclave” is a very common and relevant criticism of the climate establishment, particularly the IPCC, cut off from the broader examination of natural climate variability.

This points to the most important reason for addressing the controversy, one that academic scholars may find most distasteful: putting their scholarship into the public intellectual marketplace.  But unless a student’s doctoral thesis is of a kind that allows admission to Shakespeare studies in academe, the student-no-more has no place in, no right to join in, the discussion of Shakespeare. In this climate, the idea of coming (no less going) face to face with fierce controversialists seems especially unappealing.

Many have told me their questions are ones they have long wanted to ask or have waited to hear addressed. I have encountered many more such people than those who are interested or involved in the controversy. Their questions are often good ones, a surprising number of which have led me to something useful – even, on occasion, important.

JC comment:  I find it very interesting that an “extended peer community” has  developed around this topic, motivated by public interest in the historical and cultural issues associated with Shakespeare.  Extended peer community is a concept that has been applied to policy relevant issues, but here we see evidence of a broader type of interest that can motivate such communites.

The silence of Shakespeareans leaves a void that Oxfordians are only too eager to fill. It is a major reason for their success. For they welcome all and offer each a chance to discuss and explore both the man and his works, to participate actively in the discussion, rather than to be a student eternally – a passive, unengaged receptacle of information that is neither adequate nor satisfying. Indeed, Oxfordian meetings often offer opportunities to advance their education. 

JC comment:  I believe this argument also applies to the technical climate blogosphere.

As has Frank Wadsworth, the author of the first book about the controversy by an orthodox scholar, The Poacher from Stratford (1958). Thirty-five years later he wrote an article, “The Poacher Re-Visited,” for The Shakespeare Newsletter. In it he said:

It is important that we recognize the iconoclasts, particularly those of us who are teachers. But as Shakespeareans … we should not do it by visiting upon them the disdain of the past but by letting them speak freely for themselves … Our role should be not to suppress debate but to instruct students how to consider the Oxfordians’ (and others’) arguments carefully and thoughtfully. That exercise will make students not just more responsible as far as Shakespeare is concerned, but also wiser, more critical, more judicial, in dealing with the complex challenges they will face in the difficult decades which lie ahead of them.

We demystify authorship controversies, assassination conspiracies, theories of extra-terrestrial shindigs, even painful social demands, by letting their proponents speak out, not by censoring them. At least that’s what I thought when I wrote The Poacher from Stratford. And still do.

JC conclusion:  No analogy is perfect, but I find the Sheakespeare controversy as desribed in Matus’ essay  to provide a plethora of insights into the climate debate.  The importance of public engagement is eloquently argued.  While the academic Shakespearean scholars can arguably ensconce themselves in the ivory tower with little consequence, the situation is different for climate scientists. Policy decisions and even decisions regarding research funding are fueled by the public debate in the media and the blogosphere.  The importance of public engagement in the climate debate is not sufficiently appreciated in the academy.

125 responses to “Bardian insights

  1. Ah, but this is a controversy which can be settled. And that will make all the difference.

    • Yes, AGW proponents use the Oxfordians technique to settle debate:
      “You will become the new Satan of the Oxfordians”

      Since 1971 “post-modern” consensus science, personal attacks and smear tactics have been successfully used as propaganda tools to promote the global climate scam.

      The decision was apparently made during Kissinger’s secret visit to China in 1971 to use “Anthropologic Global Climate Change” as the “common enemy” to:

      a.) Unite Nations;
      b.) End the Cold War, the Space Race; and
      c.) The threat of Mutual Nuclear Annihilation.

      In an attempt to negate the Sun’s obvious control over Earth’s climate, the model [1] of a “homogeneous Sun in hydrostatic equilibrium” became official government dogma after 1971.

      Precise experimental data from studies of meteorites, the 1969 Apollo Mission to the Moon, the 1995 Galileo probe of Jupiter, and even nuclear rest mass data have been ignored, manipulated, or hidden [2].

      1. “The Bilderberg Model of the Photosphere and Low Chromosphere”….3….5G

      2. “The Bilderberg Sun, Climategate & Economic Crisis”

      Oliver K. Manuel
      Former NASA Principal
      Investigator for Apollo

    • What makes you so sure it will be settled? The Oxfordians (those who believe Edware Vere was the author) remain unconvinced by the arguments of the Stratfordians. A pretty compelling set of arguments for the former can be seen at

      Looking for holes in the arguments of either side of this controversy is pretty similar to doing so for the climate debate. Once you’ve come down strongly on one side or the other, you find it pretty easy to see the holes in the other side’s arguments, and very difficult to see the holes in your own side’s.

      • I found this quote in the book, “A Revolution in the Earth Sciences” by A. Hallam
        “We only see what we know”

      • Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides:
        Who cover faults, at last shame them derides.

      • Vaughn Pratt –
        Once you’ve come down strongly on one side or the other, you find it pretty easy to see the holes in the other side’s arguments, and very difficult to see the holes in your own side’s.

        Yes. IOW, one rarely looks in a mirror and sees ones own warts.

  2. William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564; died 23 April 1616)
    England’s (J. Lamb) and less convincing America’s (J. Eddy) temperatures at the Shakespearian time.

  3. “a reminder to skeptics to be skeptical of your skepticism”

    Those words should be at the top of every skeptic/lukewarmer blog. Certainly a majority of commenters don’t understand the concept.

    • Indeed..

    • I’m very skeptical that AGWers will every confess in an honest manner that they were hoodwinked by Mann and the hockey stick.

    • Mark B,
      And the AGW community is……..?

    • MarkB,

      I couldn’t agree more, MarkB, with your suggestion that the quote you selected from the article should be at the top of every skeptic/lukewarmer blog. Might I suggested something along the lines of “Science is never settled” for climate blogs of the alternative persuasion?

      But you know, MarkB, what most struck me about you comment was that from a thoughtful post that invited self-reflection, a second thought, and self-criticism, you chose to select but one portion of it for comment and that the portion best suited to partisan greenshirt point-scoring. And, predictably, once you flipped the switch on your Bug-Lite quip, all your climate-mosquito pals showed up with their obligatory snark-bonding fist-bumps. And that’s all.

      What is it it with you people? What’s wrong with you people?

      • pure poetry :)

        “And, predictably, once you flipped the switch on your Bug-Lite quip, all your climate-mosquito pals showed up with their obligatory snark-bonding fist-bumps.”

        this is much better than the “denier chum” used by Eli et al.

      • I liked that too :-)

      • mike,
        The believers cannot be bothered to consider skepticism. But they certainly seem in a hurry to define ‘skepticism’ for everyone but themselves.

      • I don’t know what a bug-light quip is, I don’t know who you think my pals are, and I dont’ know what partisan greenshirt point-scoring is. I really have no idea what your point was.

      • MarkB

        Google: “playing dumb”. It’ll lay it all out for you.

    • maybe you should be skeptical of your certainty that most commenters don’t get this. And maybe you should actually read a lukewarmer blog. There are maybe a handful. which do you think is the least skeptical of its skepticism, and why?

      • I AM a lukewarmer, you knucklehead. You’re obviously so married to us-against-them that you can’t conceive of simple statements of integrity having any value.

        A good 80% of the comments on this site and WUWT are either totally off-topic or are rants that could be posted under any thread equally. No mattter what Dr Curry tries to talk about, most of the comments could be taken out of one thread and dropped into another and no one would know the difference. That’s because so many of the people who post here have nothing to contribute other than bile. And I’m stuck being on their side? Thanks loads. When I try to have an intelligent discussion on the subject, I have to start by assuring my listener that I’m not one of the mouth-breathers before I start. The truth is that the climate skeptic trolls are not one bit better than the climate alarmist trolls – a pox on both their houses.

      • a pox on both their houses…….doesn’t that belong on the Bard’s thread? :)

    • What makes you think that sceptics are not sceptical of their scepticism? You can Google “Theo Goodwin” and I believe that you will find that I am sceptical of everything. Warmista arguments for CAGW fall entirely outside of scientific method. They use only computer models and magical statistics. They do no empirical research whatsoever, except for the fake research behind the Hockey Stick. I am an agnostic about CAGW in search of one defensible scientific claim in suport of CAGW. I have found none. So, where am I lacking in scepticism? Oh, by the way, you will not be able to supply one reasonably well-confirmed physical hypothesis that goes beyond Arrhenius and supports CAGW.

      • Another hockey stick kiddie. The hockey stick has nothing to do with climate science.Paleo climate reconstruction is nothing but climate stamp collecting. It has nothing to do with how climate works. By waving the hockey stick meme around you tell us that all you can do with climate is parrot McIntyre and pout. McIntyre has done us a great service, but I doubt you even know what it is he’s done.

        And you’re just the kind of person I have to explain away before I can make a cogent argument against climate paranoia on a rational basis.

    • Michael Larkin

      As I intimated in an earlier post, we should all be sceptical about our own views, whatever side of an issue we take. Sceptics should be sceptical of their scepticism, and the orthodox, sceptical of their orthodoxy. It’s a symmetrical situation, but what you have written assumes it’s skewed in the direction you don’t like. Can’t you see that you are looking out of only one eye? You yourself don’t seem to understand the concept.

  4. Slightly OT –
    We do not have a good time series for global cloud cover in the 20th century, but we can get certain hints from performance art. He wasn’t Shakespeare, but Howard Hughes made a movie in the 1930s which required clouds in the sky to provide viewers with some perspective during aerial dog fights (World War I movie). He was unable to film for eight months because everyday was completely cloudless for the entire time. Finally, a weatherman reported some clouds in Oakland area so they flew up there to film the scene. The film on Howard Hughes starring Leonardo Di Caprio told this story quite well.

    Based on this story, it seems the really warm dust bowl years of the 1930s had a serious shortage of clouds. So the early 20th century also has some hints about climate from the performing arts.

    We now return to our regularly scheduled program on Shakespeare.

    • There seem to have been periods of cloudless skies back in the late 15th C:
      “And all the clouds that low’r’d upon our house
      In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”
      Richard III, Act 1, scene 1, 3–4

  5. Pretty good analogy for the most part, however some of the arguments presented by skeptics are the equivalent of whether Shakespeare was a mammal or not.

    Most Oxfordians would agree that Shakespeare wrote on paper with pen and ink, while some skeptics argue that the laws of thermodynamics, the Standard Model, and the anthropogenic source of CO2 are wrong.

  6. Is global warming an astronomical phenomenon, a la Lohle/Scafetta, or a consequence of our human emissions of greenhouse gases?

    Cassius, in Julius Caesar, Act 1, scene 2, answered that question a long time back:

    “The fault, Dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings”.

    Much credit for anticipating modern climate change thus goes to Shakespeare (or to whoever wrote his plays).

    • :-) Nice

    • Roger Andrews

      Hamlet actually had a better handle on uncertainties: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. (Act 1, scene 5).

      • Shakespeare foresaw danger even in A Winter’s Tale:

        Mamillius – “Too hot! Too hot!”

        (Act 1, scene 2)

      • Roger Andrews

        He foresaw the solution too: (Richard III, Act 1, Scene 2)

        Gloster: “Now is the winter of our discontent
        Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
        And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
        In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”

      • Theo Goodwin

        A sceptic is not concerned that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in one’s CAGW theory but that there are more things in one’s CAGW theory than there are in heaven and earth.

    • And with respect to the Hockey Team, and all caught with less than noble sentiments, actions, or words in the Climateagte emails: “Lilies that fester smell worse than weeds.”

  7. a reminder to skeptics to be skeptical of your skepticism


    We demystify authorship controversies, assassination conspiracies, theories of extra-terrestrial shindigs, even painful social demands, by letting their proponents speak out, not by censoring them.

    Something for each.

  8. There are some similarities. One is that there is a cabal of wikipedians defending the mainstream view who risk alienating neutral observers. Vaughan Pratt is currently up against them on the talk page. Another is that the sceptics are doing a valuable service in forcing the mainstream to examine its evidence carefully (how certain can they be that several of the plays were written after 1604 when Oxford died?)
    But overall it is not a strong analogy. As JC says, it matters not one whit; also it is about what happened in the past rather than what might happen in the future.

    The Shakespeare question will be all over the media soon, because there is a film coming out later this year called ‘Anonymous’ that presents the Oxford viewpoint. Unfortunately it presents the most extreme (skydragon?) form of the theory, in which Oxford and Queen Elizabeth are lovers.

    • Of course it wasn’t written by Shakespear, but by some other fella of the same name.

      H/t Homer Seemsame.

  9. If searching for bardian wisdom on the debate (as opposed to the science) I favor the good old Hottspur/Glendower exchange from Henry IV:


    I can call spirits from the vasty deep.


    Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them?


    Why, I can teach you, cousin, to command
    The devil.


    And I can teach thee, coz, to shame the devil
    By telling truth: tell truth and shame the devil.
    If thou have power to raise him, bring him hither,
    And I’ll be sworn I have power to shame him hence.
    O, while you live, tell truth and shame the devil!

    The rub is to determine who is Hotspur and who in Glendower.

    • McIntyre, Mosher and Curry clearly fill the role of Hotspur. Romm, the RC gang, and Gore are obviously Glendower.

      • There are Glendowers and Hotspurs on both sides of the issue (as well as people who are neither). I am hesitant to cast the whole “RC gang” as Glendowers (although I have absolutely no problem with Mann & Connoley). Mocknton seems more a Glendower than a Hotspur, while Revkin seems more a Hotspur than a Glendower.

      • Theo Goodwin

        Who champions empirical research and who disdains it?

      • Championing and disdaining empirical research does little to distinguish a Hotspur from a Glendower in the climate debate. What distinguishes them is the making of grandiose claims, to wit “I have plumbed the depths of information on the climate system and know that the movement of the solar system through the ether is the sole cause of the current changes in climate” is a Glendowerian statement.

      • Hotspur’s about right. But I prefer Restoration comedy to Shakespeare.
        and Horner to Hotspur

    • Often speak in English, but not as mother tongue.

  10. Theo Goodwin

    Your exploration of the similarities between critics in science and critics in literary theory is truly impressive, Dr. Curry. I regret that I have no time to comment on your fine work.

  11. Michael Larkin

    I agree: sceptics should be sceptical of their scepticism, just as the orthodox should be sceptical of their orthodoxy. What they should share in common is scepticism of their own viewpoint.

    If everyone were a sceptic in that way, then communication would be possible, and there would be no face to be lost in the event of one view or the other being proved correct.

    In the study of Shakespearean authorship or climate, or any number of other contentious areas, the real problem is that many people don’t understand what it is not merely to have self-doubt, but to rejoice in having it. Nothing makes the world more exciting than doubt, and nothing makes human progress more likely.

    Certainty is what holds us back, not doubt.

  12. Thank you for this … as a pre-post-modernist English & Psych major, I found the similarities quite amazing. But one of my all-time favourites among Josh’s masterpieces would be a perfect illustration for this post, methinks …

  13. some skeptics argue that the laws of thermodynamics, the Standard Model, and the anthropogenic source of CO2 are wrong.

    Just to be clear on this point about denying the 2nd law of thermodynamics, the law needs to be stated with more than the usual care in order to be even approximately true in certain situations.

    Consider a xenon lamp whose filament is radiating at temperature F = 6400 K and bulb at temperature B = 400 K, the combination emitting energy thermally equivalent to a black body of that size at 2000 K (but clearly not spectrally equivalent since the distribution is bimodal whereas Planck’s law is unimodal).

    Next to the lamp sits a black plate at a temperature of 1600 K. The second law then promises that heat flows from the 2000 K lamp to the plate. This flow can be reversed by heating the plate to 2500 K, in accord with the law.

    Now interpose a filter that (bidrectionally) passes most of the 1600 K radiation but reflects (again bidirectionally) most of the 6400 K and 400 K radiation. The net heat flow will now be from the plate to the lamp, since little of the radiation from the lamp can reach the plate whereas most of the radiation from the plate can reach the lamp. Unless the 2nd law is phrased more carefully than usual, what we have here is a failure of the law.

    Replacing the filament by the sun and the bulb by the sky, speaking of the Sun-sky combination as having a net temperature appropriate to its area, and replacing the filter by greenhouse gases, sets up a situation that one could easily parlay into a violation of the 2nd law as customarily stated.

    • Can you elaborate? I get your example but how is it analogous? GHGs don’t filter the filament (sun)…?

      • Vaughan Pratt

        Sure. Earth’s orbital radius r is 149.6 gm while the Sun’s radius R is 0.696 gm. This allows us to calculate the area of the whole sky (all 4π steradians) as 184800 times that of the Sun (as a disc). Radiated heat is proportional to T^4. The fourth root of 184800 is 20.73, and the Sun is at 5778 K, so the Sun-sky system, viewed as a sphere surrounding the Earth, radiates the energy of a black body of the same area having temperature 5778/20.73 = 278.7 K.

        Now this radiation does not have the spectral distribution of a black body, instead having one peak at 5778 K and the other at 2.7 K, but the 2nd law says nothing about spectral distribution so this should be irrelevant to it.

        We would therefore expect an airless Earth at the center of this sphere to equilibrate to 278.7 K. Since the poles would be colder than the equator, we would have to define the global temperature the same way as for the celestial sphere containing the Sun, namely as the temperature of a black body of that area (510 square megameters) radiating the same amount of energy. With that definition the Earth should tend to the same temperature as the celestial sphere, in accordance with the 2nd law.

        While this isn’t the only way to arrive at the figure, it’s a sufficiently neat way as to justify using it in a wide variety of situations.

        Now add our present atmosphere. Based on our understanding of greenhouse gases we would expect Earth’s average temperature to rise to 288 K.

        But this is nearly ten degrees hotter than the average temperature of the celestial sphere. The 2nd law tells us is impossible, since the atmosphere is not itself a source of heat.

        There is nothing in the usual statements of the 2nd law to forbid this way of analyzing the situation.

        The question then becomes, how should the second law be stated so that it cannot fall afoul of this situation?

        Simply saying that the 2nd law doesn’t apply to objects that are not at a uniform temperature won’t do because it renders the law almost unusably weak, since uniform temperature is rarely achieved. We can avoid this weakening by defining temperature of an object in terms of its area and energy radiated via the inverse of the Stefan-Boltzmann law. This worked exactly for our calculation of the expected temperature of 278.7 K for the airless Earth. On that basis and a wide range of other similar examples we might be encouraged to program this way of analyzing such things in general into an AI program, along with the laws of thermodynamics.

        How should an AI program handle the 2nd law so as to avoid the fallacious inference that merely adding an atmosphere that is not by itself a generator of heat can’t raise Earth’s average temperature above the average temperature of its environment?

      • Vaughn,

        While I think I understand the gist and certainly the technical details, I am not sure I can add much to the discussion of what the AI should do. I think the answer here lies in the nature of the earth-atmosphere system not being a blackbody. Changes in atmospheric composition alter the emission spectrum.

        I don’t know if it is reasonable to apply the 2nd law in terms of radiative equilibrium rather than temperature equilibrium?

      • I don’t know if it is reasonable to apply the 2nd law in terms of radiative equilibrium rather than temperature equilibrium?

        So far the only two exceptions I’m aware of to the 2nd law are as follows.

        1. Situations where the law of large numbers breaks down, for example trying to reason thermodynamically about individual small molecules. My student Paul Fahn wrote about this a while back (but not as part of his thesis).

        2. When the heat is radiative, not black body (e.g. bimodal), and filters are involved.

        Otherwise the 2nd law seems pretty broadly applicable. It would be a pity not to be able to appeal to it when it works.

  14. Nebuchadnezzar

    Fear no more the heat of the sun
    nor the furious winter’s rages
    Thou thy worldly task hast done
    Home art gone and t’aen thy wages

  15. John Whitman


    I do not find the analogy between Shakespearean controversies and climate science controversies worth the diversion from getting up to speed on the earth’s carbon dynamics in preparation for the Salby paper, except from one unique aspect. I think it is useful to study the free associations a person finds similar between two situations that are fundamentally different; useful as a diagnostic/ therapeutic tool.

    Let me explain. Let’s say someone from the climate science controversies is shown one by one the pieces of the Shakespearean controversies and asked as he is shown each piece what does this piece of Shakespearean controversy look like or mean to you. Doing that could be viewed as like a psychologist holding up Rorschach inkblot test blot cards in front of patients and asking what does this look like or mean to you.

    It is not that the ink blot is analogous to reality, it is not important to rationalizing the ink blot, it is the free associating that is meaningful in providing an answer.

    Let me give an example: Someone holds this piece of Shakespearean controversy up in front of me, “Quickly, what is your immediate impression Mr. Whitman in the context of climate science?”

    No matter how imaginative a Shakespeare biographer may be, it takes a heap of imagination to imagine a Shakespeare. However, the failure of modern biographies is not due to a lack of imagination merely. It lies in what Brian Vickers termed the “self-contained enclave” of “specialists in Shakespearian and Elizabethan drama,” whose studies are “cut off even from broader studies of Renaissance literature and history.” Taking this a step further in biography, Shakespeare is cut off not only from Elizabethan drama but from contemporary dramatists and from the broader world of the theater as well. His is a life devoid of a context.

    My answer, “Much ado about nothing” wrt climate science. Seems like a common humanities academic controversy with nothing but hubris at stake. It seems to me the guys defending Shakespeare have a lot at risk, the Oxfordians not so much and there appears to be no risk of collateral damage outside of academia . . . so not similar to climate science controversies.

    Shall we each do our own pseudo-Rorschach test then compare?


    • You might consider this book:
      Bloom, Harold. 1998. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. New York: Riverhead Books.

      The point: Since Shakespeare wrote, the world, the science and the technology has changed. But (in the main) human nature has not.

      • John Whitman

        Pooh, Dixie,

        Thanks for the reference.

        Absolutely agree that human nature hasn’t changed but philosophies have.

        Philosophies can be radically different even though human nature hasn’t changed. Likewise the cultures based on the very different philosophies can be very different. Then the societies and governments based on those cultures can be extremely different even though human nature hasn’t changed.

        Even with our modern philosophies and cultures, I see the vital importance of respecting and studying past art, past philosophy and all history. Then we just might understand human nature and have meaning for what and who we are today.


  16. Gösta Oscarsson

    OT with about 450 years. But great authors have a capacity for prescience regardless of period..

    Evelyn Waugh began a strange short story called “Love among the ruins” in the following way:

    “Despite their promises at the last election, the politicians had not changed the climate. The State Meterological Institute had so far produced only an unseasonable fall of snow and two thunderbolts no larger than apricots. The weather varied fram day to day and from county to county as it had done of old, most anomalously”. Published in 1953.

    Gösta Oscarsson

  17. Judith, can we assume during your time at the University of Colorado you spent some entertaining evenings at the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre during the annual Colorado Shakespeare Festivals?

  18. Judith

    Very nice post, thank you. You make some interesting analogies

    Although not strictly your point, literature and paintings have a part to play in tracing climate change. By one of lifes’ coincidences I was in London today at the British Museum and The National Gallery to research an article on the pointers that pictures and words, buildings and artefacts can give us towards climate change.

    I used a great picture by Monet of Waterloo Bridge London in 1900 in a previous article to illustrate the effects of smog on temperatures.

    There is a fascinating painting of Paris in the National Portrait Gallery showing a similar effect.Turners paintings also tended to show the effects of smog.

    John Steinbecks’ The Grapes of Wrath’ and ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ are great books for picking up weather conditions of the time. As far back as the Romans we have scripts and poetry telling us of conditions. The Roman historian and Senator Tacitus complained that Britain was not suitable to grow grapes in, but within 80 years vineyards were being created in a number of places.


  19. Dear Dr. Curry,

    At the risk of being fairly accused as a nitpicking lawyer, may I note that your phrase “which side bears the burden of proof” applies both to the question of which party bears the responsibility to persuade and to the extent of the evidentiary proof required to support a judgment by the court. See Black’s Law Dictionary, “burden of proof. …. The burden of proof includes both the burden of persuasion and the burden of production” and “burden of persuasion …. In civil cases, the plaintiff’s burden is usu. “by a preponderance of the evidence,” while in criminal cases the prosecution’s burden is “beyond a reasonable doubt.””

    Given that one important issue for the climate discussion, and most particularly your fine blog, is the role of uncertainty, the “height” of the burden of persuasion necessary to support public policy actions is at the core of the question. Shakespeare himself recognized that the extent of proof, as well as who carries the burden, is crucial and that an insistence on absolute certainty can be true comedy.

    “Until I know this sure uncertainty, I’ll entertain the offered fallacy.”
    — William Shakespeare (The Comedy of Errors)

    Thanks for your blog, and regards,


  20. The debate over who wrote Shakespeare’s works, contrasted to the debate over the need to decarbonize the world economy, says much more about the nature of man, than it does about academia or science.

    The vast similarities between the two debates, despite the enormous gap between their relative real world significance, demonstrates nothing so clearly as the effect of the human ego on human reason. Whether we are talking attributing global warming (requiring a reordering of the entire world’s economy), or attribution of works of literature (requiring nothing from the world outside academia), once positions are taken and egos are engaged, the debate suffers.

    Debates about the authorship of Shakespeare’s body of literature are anything but new. As are debates about any given scientific “consensus.” Their similarities (in terms of rhetoric, polemics and “tribalism”) far outweigh their differences. What this post most ably demonstrates is that the conceit that “science” has somehow been a different type of human endeavor, purer than other areas of inquiry, is mistaken.

    Consensus scientists – skeptics, Shakespeareans – Oxfordians, theists – atheists, Republicans – Democrats, no matter the substance of the particular debate, the frailties of the humans engaged in it can be counted on to cause the disconnects that are so often written about on this blog.

    But I don’t know about Shakespeare being 450 years off topic. The classics are classics precisely because they illuminate the human condition, regardless of the era in which they were written.

    The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
    But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

    I think it fair to say that whoever Shakespeare was, he would have been cautious in ceding so much power to authority, as that demanded by the climate consensus activists.

    • very nicely put

    • What this post most ably demonstrates is that the conceit that “science” has somehow been a different type of human endeavor, purer than other areas of inquiry, is mistaken.

      Or perhaps it merely demonstrates that to a crackpot, a strongly supported argument with multiple lines of evidence is as impeachable as a weaker one, because the nature of their cognitive glitch does not allow them to fairly evaluate evidence, stronger or weaker as the case may be.

      I think it fair to say that whoever Shakespeare was, he would have been cautious in ceding so much power to authority, as that demanded by the climate consensus activists.

      Shakespeare was a big fan of authority. In Shakespeare’s world, while authority is not infallible, defying it almost always leads to disaster. And I suspect Shakespeare would have some rather biting things to say about non-scientists pretending to be scientists, or anyone working to confuse or obscure the overwhelming consensus among scientists on a given issue. Shakespeare wrote frequently about pretenders who seized upon public controversies, private jealousy, suspicion and fear in order to usurp the real authorities and advance themselves.

      Things never ended well for them. ;)

    • GaryM –
      Whether we are talking attributing global warming (requiring a reordering of the entire world’s economy), or attribution of works of literature (requiring nothing from the world outside academia), once positions are taken and egos are engaged, the debate suffers.

      Your words are applicable nearly universally. I’ve found the same kind of ego-driven battles between scientists in my work with NASA. I’ve found it in the ranks of archaeological research. And in the competing theories of the relatively unknown Origins of Life scientific community. And in the historical research wrt the Civil War. And even in ranks of Medieval academic historians over the use of the word “feudalism”.

      To echo Dr Curry – you said it well.

      As for Robert’s comment – I think what I’ve written above is refutation enough for those who understand what I wrote. His experience, his mind and his world are just too small.

      • Jim,

        Robert, like all progressives, is a “big fan of authority,” which accounts for almost everything he writes here. It is so much easier to follow the rear end of the sheep (or lemming in the case of climate alarmism) in front of you, than to think for yourself.

        I await with bated breath Robert’s quotation of Shakepeare’s support of authoritarianism. (My recollection is that it was authoritarians like Richard III who did not fare too well in Shakespeare’s plays.)

    • Theo Goodwin

      “What this post most ably demonstrates is that the conceit that “science” has somehow been a different type of human endeavor, purer than other areas of inquiry, is mistaken.”

      Science has the Scientific Method. There is no Literary Method. Analogy fails.

      • There is no literary method? Don’t tell Joyce, Yeats, Hawthorne, Hemingway, Dostoyevsky or Dumas that.

        More to the point, the analogy was not between science and literature, but between scientists and the literati. The conceit that the “scientific method” somehow insulates scientists from their human frailties has been disproved over and over again. The scientific method has done nothing to stop scientific fraud, bloviating pomposity, closed minded tribalism, or any of the other flaws that characterize all human endeavors.

        Sorry, scientists are just people, just like the rest of us. And science, like any other profession, is only as pure as the persons participating in it at the time.

      • Michael Larkin

        I was educated in the sciences, but in later life gained an interest in literature, especially poetry. You pretty quickly learn that good literature is exquisitely structured and that method abounds. And as in science, every now and then a genius comes along who introduces new methods of writing and new methods of assessing writing. There can be every bit as much, if not more, integrity and truth in literature as in science. Don’t diss it. Yes, it can be, and to some extent has been, invaded by woolly post-modernism, but science has hardly been immune to that either.

  21. “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

  22. I highly recommend “Shakespeare’s Son and His Sonnets” by Hank Whittemore for the short, affordable, and accessible version of a pretty convincing argument for Oxford. It is in the Sonnets where the Stratfordians have thrashed around the worst, without credible result, in making the case for Stratford. The Sonnetts should have been the most personal and revealing of the real author. Whittemore makes them so. The Stratfordians have never achieved more than arm-waving in discussing them.

  23. To my mind, the importance of public in the loss of individualism is not sufficiently appreciated.

    “Rain and storm—‘tis not such things that count. Many a time some little joy can come along on a rainy day, and make a man turn off somewhere to be alone with his happiness—stand up somewhere and look out straight ahead, laughing quietly now and again, and looking round. What is there to think of? One clear pane in a window, a ray of sunlight in the pane, the sight of a little brook, or maybe a blue strip of sky between the clouds. It needs no more than that.

    “At other times, even quite unusual happenings cannot avail to lift a man from dullness and poverty of mind; one can sit in the middle of a ballroom and be cool, indifferent, unaffected by anything. Sorrow and joy are from within oneself.” ~ Knut Hamsun, Pan

  24. I think there is another element to the climate wars. Each side is telling themselves and each other stories superficially in the ‘culturally potent idiom of the dispassionate scientific narrative’.

    But the war is about cultural values. I have never argued against reducing CO2 – because there seems so little certainty. The argument is on the ways and means. Development and technological innovation compared to taxes and ‘limits to growth’. The 2 will never be reconciled – but one side will win the political struggle and capture the future.

    • So, you do not believe it is a hoax, right? That’s a win for charlatans. And, if it is just a cultural difference of opinion, you have to disregard scientists like Philip Stott, Wm Gray, Lindzen, Spencer, M&M, Starck, Demming… even Monbiot and Lambord are now pro-nuclear and the founder of Greenpeace now knows the the environmentalism movement has been highjacked by neocommunists.

      • Wag —
        Whether you like it or not, it HAS become a cultural war regardless of the science. Like it or not, the politics now overshadows the science.

        Not that I have any faith in consensus science. It’s based on too many dodgy assumptions that it’s adherents fail to understand. It’s a blind spot and an article of faith for them.

        I have even less faith in the political solutions that would be based on that science. There is neither practicality nor pragmatism involved in the proposed solutions. There is, however, a LOT of idealism, optimism – and stupidity in those proposals. It’s the usual situation where the solutioins are based on emotion with neither logic nor fact as considerations – and damn the consequences.

        How many of these discussions have we had here? How many reasonable “solutions” have been proposed by the alarmists? Have you seen the first one yet? Don’t let me miss it when it goes by.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        You show me your scientists and I’ll show you mine? I am not sure what one has to do with the other – and I am not sure if, for instance, Roger Pielke Sn amongst others – would agree with you that we should continue to emit CO2 past the point of practical cessation.

        But I always believe in making things as simple as possible – only poetry should have mysterious resonances on the edge of consciousness.


        A framework for bridging the rocky
        crags of experience and emotion.
        It is a childs green jungle gym in a sandy
        playground by the ocean – the grass
        worn thin below the arch of the ladder.

        Can I swing and somersualt and twist
        never fearing to fall? No.
        Unless it is a ladder that
        reaches to the moon.
        That’s not this ladder.

        This ladder spans the abyss between
        feeling and impulse, emotion and the world.
        That was the plan
        but it never occurs.

        You always twist and somersault and fall.
        The nature of the game dictates the terms
        until destiny succumbs to love
        and arms reach out to clasp you
        safely to their breast.

        Without love all action is daring.
        With love no daring is fatal.

        I think the science on climate is mostly wrong – but I don’t think it is a hoax. I think it is fairly obvious that most recent warming occurred in the 1976/77 and 1997/98 ENSO ‘dragon-kings’ – defined as extreme events ‘associated with a neighborhood of what can be called equivalently a phase transition, a bifurcation, (or) a catastrophe (in the sense of Rene Thom)’. (Sornette 2005) Most of the rest occurred as a result of SST changes and cloud feedbacks in the Pacific Decadal Variation.

        Most Arctic temperature and ice changes were the result of multi-decadal variability (80 year odd variability) in the Northern Annular Mode – which seems to follow solar UV/stratospheric ozone interactions.

        The planet seems likely to cool for a decade or 3 as the Sun declines from a 1000 year high and both SAM and NAM follow the lead causing the Pacific decadal cool mode to intensify in the tropical and subtropical Pacific. Cooler conditions will mean less CO2 will be emitted by natural systems. After that – we are in the land of the dragon-kings.

        Sounds mad I know – but I have spent decades as a poet, scientist, engineer – a regular renaissance guy in fact – and I swear this is how I understand it.

        There are 2 nuclear technologies I quite like. 4th gen nuclear has a 40 year history – many prototypes and a new one just fired up in China. It is a only matter of fuels and materials technology – these are far superior in every way (and potentially much cheaper) than 1st, 2nd or 3rd gen plants. They can’t melt down, don’t have to use water as a coolant, can recycle nuclear waste and weapons material and produce waste that is dangerous for hundreds of years rather than hundreds of thousands. There is an abundance of fuel available.

        The other is Eric Lerner’s plasma fusion idea. High enoung temperatures (hotter than the Sun) have been achieved in plasma arcs. Now if he can just get the plasmoid small enough – though twitches in materials and plasmoid architecture – he can theoretically fuse boron with protons creating juice that can be fed straight into the grid. A 5MW compact generator for $300,000 apiece – as opposed to about $7,000,000 (US or Australian) for equivalent energy from a coal fired plant -and having much cheaper fuel costs. I’ll take a dozen.

        But CO2 is one of pesky threshold things in a complex and dynamic Earth system – and I don’t know what is going to happen to climate as I lost my swarmi hat somewhere. Calling Mike the Swarmi – come in Mike.

    • Theo Goodwin

      The only way that the Warmista can become credible is by reinventing scientific method to fit their fantasies. Postmodern science fits anyone’s fantasies anytime.

  25. This blog is really growing on me.

  26. A wonderful wordsmith, Shakespeare. The sense in his words unpack as if streaming from a zip file, expanding four-fold on their hearing, and meaning yet more then, after.

    I toast in his general direction.

  27. Judith, There is this one too. I’m not sure if it favours either side:

    “Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
    Thou art not so unkind
    As man’s ingratitude”
    As You like It

    But, if you have a sister, the Bard does offer a possible solution to climate change:

    “Two women placed together makes cold weather”
    The Life of King Henry VIII

    You may also feel that your stance on the climate issue has had some personal cost, and from the same play:

    Alas, I am a woman friendless, hopeless!

    Sometimes, when I’m struggling to work out your motivations on this blog, the quotation:

    “women are meant to loved, not to be understood”

    springs to mind. But that was Oscar Wilde, not Shakespeare.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      So you just spout sexist rubbish? I have said it before – you need to go to Vienna and have a team of phychiatrists world on you and only round the clock 7 days a week until things improve.

      Seriuosly – is this the best you can do?

      • You starvelling, you eel-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, you bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish–O for breath to utter what is like thee!-you tailor’s-yard, you sheath, you bow-case, you vile standing tuck!

        Henry IV Part1

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Oh for Christ’s sake…

      • Chief Hydrologist

        The language and the characterisation of women in your previous post was deeply offensive. I am not defending Judith – I am sure she can look after herself. It simply perpetuates streotypes that are deeply inimical to a fair and equal society.

        And I am sorry if I seemed to make light of it – because it is the language of oppression and deeply offensive.

      • CH,

        The language of Shakespearean times was rather sexist, so there is always the danger of that accusation when quoting Shakespeare. It wasn’t meant to be taken seriously.

        Just to set the record straight, Judith’s argument would be equally incomprehensible if it came from a male source.

      • I’m not sure the “incomprehensibleness” refers to Judith’s inability of expression more than your own inability to comprehend stuff in general.

        Because I quite understand where she comes from pretty well.

      • I’m not disagreeing about the undesirability of sexism. But there is no getting away from the fact that Shakespeare was just that. You can’t rewrite history. What are we to do when we have a thread with the title “Bardian Insights”?

        Just forget that he ever wrote plays like “The Taming of the Shrew” and all his other quotes which aren’t what you might term 21st century PC?

      • Chief Hydrologist

        It was your twist on things that is objectionable. It is the attitude to wmoen in general. I saw a metion of a study recently showing girls as young as 4 having issues with confidence – where is that fair.

  28. I detested Bardolatry in graduate school and now one of my favorite blogs is infected by it.

  29. I think my wife takes this one to heart when we have a plane to catch. But it does have relevance to the climate issue too.

    “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”
    Merry Wives of Windsor

    I like this one too:

    “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool. ”
    Measure for Measure

    Of course both sides will claim this one for themselves, but the way I read it, as regards climate change, is: the wise person knows that a lifetime of study will never give them as good an appreciation of the subject as they would like; whereas, the fool thinks that several years of experience in some totally unrelated field, typically some type of engineering, endows him with all the necessary qualifications to accurately assess the veracity of IPCC assessment reports.

    • What makes you think that professionals such as engineers, geologists, statisticians etc, you know, the people who know how things actually work in the real world, as opposed to theorists, are not well placed to judge the veracity of IPCC assessment reports – in any case many of which were written by non-climatologists?

      • Knowing how to dig coal or fix diesel engines, doesn’t make anyone an expert on climate! However, regardless of whether you look at the Earth from a scientific or engineering viewpoint, you’ll still, of course, get the same answer. So engineers can still make a valuable contribution if they take the trouble to think about the problem before coming to a judgement.

        I think we discussed of the CWM thread why engineers seem to be over-represented in the ranks of climate change deniers. Whatever the true answer, it’s nothing to do with engineering itself. A good engineer wouldn’t take a reckless risk on the climate by allowing CO2 concentrations to rise out of all control.

      • tt,
        Engineers generally do not believe the climate scientists have it right when climate scientists and others push the idea of a climate catastrophe.
        Nor do geologists.
        Your calling engineers ‘deniers’ for being skeptical sort of makes you look like a fool, by the way.
        Engineers are more credible than cliamte scientists because the decisions that engineers make are tested in reality, not in models.
        Your assumption that CO2 is rising all out of control reflects a shallow understanding of the problem in general, by the way.

  30. Judith

    Thanks for this post. The analogy comparing the controversy surrounding Shakespeare’s writings with today’s climate debate is funny and to the point.

    But back to climate.

    In Shakespeare’s time the destiny of humans was inexorably linked to the natural vagueries and variabilities of weather and climate. It was near the start of a prolonged colder spell and that was not good news for most people of his day.

    To get a feel for just how helpless humans were vis-à-vis the weather before the Industrial Revolution one should see a performance of Hayden’s oratorio, “The Seasons”.

    Makes “climate change” feel like a stroll in the park.


  31. OK. My contribution (with apologies to the Bard).

    From Hamlet:

    As Horatio says to Marcellus (referring to Yvo de Boer prior to the Copenhagen climate summit?)
    He waxes desperate with imagination.

    And, as Marcellus replies (after the meeting?):
    Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.


  32. You shouldn’t have got me started on this! This is the last one for now. Shakespeare, not surprisingly, had something to say on the topic of ‘uncertainty’ too.

    “To be, or not to be: that is the question:
    Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;”

    Should climate scientists “take up arms”, Hansen style?

  33. Brutus really believed that he was acting in the best interests of Rome, and genuinely thought he had the support of the Romans. Too late, he discovered how deluded he was.

  34. JC comment: a reminder to skeptics to be skeptical of your skepticism

    There is an unwarranted fractally/circular tautology in this statement. I try to keep things simple (but not too simple) and listen to the real bard:

    The scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it, and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful it would not be worth knowing, and life would not be worth living. I am not speaking, of course, of the beauty which strikes the senses, of the beauty of qualities and appearances. I am far from despising this, but it has nothing to do with science. What I mean is that more intimate beauty which comes from the harmonious order of its parts, and which a pure intelligence can grasp.

    – Henri Poincaré, in the 1908 essay “Science and Method”

    The rest follows naturally.

  35. Interesting post and analogy. Over the centuries many people have commented on the astonishing nastiness of academic debates; I don’t know if it has ever been adequately studied explained. Just guessing for the moment, it strikes me that when there is nothing real at stake and no prospect of ever resolving an issue, maybe something is revealed about human beings: Our dominant response (first eigenvector?) takes over, obliterating all the social graces and niceties, and we turn into beasts. What surprises me about the climate debate is that there is a lot at stake and everything will be resolved eventually (much of it very soon). In some sense, we have a huge common interest in getting the science right. So why is there such passionate (and counter-productive) resistance to criticism on the part of the consensus? Mysterious, methinks.

    • Steven Mosher

      ‘Just guessing for the moment, it strikes me that when there is nothing real at stake and no prospect of ever resolving an issue, maybe something is revealed about human beings: Our dominant response (first eigenvector?) takes over, obliterating all the social graces and niceties, and we turn into beasts.”

      Yes, it’s also partly a function of fights between people who are not used to having power. Fights in business are much more civilized.

  36. John Whitman


    Out of fun, I give you this in benevolence jest. :^)

    [music playing] Doo do doo do, doo do doo do, . . . .

    You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into Judith’s post on the similarities of things Shakespearean & things Climatic.

    (apologies to Rod Serling)

    I think Shakespeare’s quote, analogous to Serling’s, would be this:

    Comparison of the Shakespearean and the Climatic is but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
    (apologies to W. Shakespeare)

    Thanks for the opportunity to make jests.


  37. Climate or Weather
    First Witch
    When shall we three meet again?
    In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
    Second Witch
    When the hurlyburly’s done,
    When the battle’s lost and won.
    Third Witch That will be ere the set of sun.
    First Witch Where the place?
    Second Witch Upon the heath.
    Third Witch There to meet with Macbeth.
    First Witch I come, Graymalkin!
    Second Witch Paddock calls.
    Third Witch Anon.
    Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
    Hover through the fog and filthy air.
    Third Witch That will be ere the set of sun.
    First Witch Where the place?
    Second Witch Upon the heath.
    Third Witch There to meet with Macbeth
    First Witch I come, Graymalkin!
    Second Witch Paddock cal
    Third Witch Anon
    Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
    Hover through the fog and filthy air.

  38. Really? No-one’s done this one yet?:

    Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day?
    Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

    These lines are revealing:

    Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
    And oft’ is his gold complexion dimm’d;

    It’s the Sun what dunnit!

  39. Ha,good father,
    Thou seest the heavens, as troubled with man’s act,
    Threatens his bloody stage: by th’ clock ’tis day/
    And yet dark night strangles the travelling lamp.


  40. I think the controversy is about nothing more than vanity and jealousy on the part of the contras. Shakespeare sets the bar so high that it seems impossible that anyone writing today could equal it, much like Mozart or Beethoven in music. I tend to think of him as a Babe Ruth, Wayne Gretzky, Bird, or Magic. People who were not only extraordinarily talented but who also elevated the games they played to another level entirely and made possible the MLB, NHL, or NBA of today.Shakespeare’s contribution will never be equaled, after all he and the King James Bible basically created English as we know it. Don’t we have geniuses today? Of course. I love Philip Glass, and Salman Rushdie writes the language like no other alive (but please, Salman, for God’s sake, learn how to end a novel!). But no-one can have the formative impact of Shakespeare and that’s just the way it is.

  41. Phil Howerton

    I relly enjoyed this post, Judith. Nice inter-disciplinary find. And it touched my heart because Charlton Ogburn, mentioned by Matus in your quotes above, was a great friend of mind. Charlton, a first class naturalist and a first class non-academic Shakesperean scholar, was the epitomy of a gentleman in all his dealings with that often contentious controversy. If anyone wants to read his The Mysterious William Shakespeare (available cheaply on, you will never think of the Stratford Lad in the same way again.

  42. Shakespeare clearly had Heartland in mind when drafting Henry IV’s precocious admonition to scientists who turn Turk and become PR flacks:

    How ill white hairs become a fool and jester!
    I have long dream’d of such a kind of man,
    So surfeit-swell’d, so old and so profane…

    Reply not to me with a fool-born jest…
    For competence of life I will allow you,
    That lack of means enforce you not to evil: